On April 24, 2014, Urdu Wikipedia reached a new milestone of 50,000+ articles. There was jubilation among the contributors and a special project page to commemorate the event was created. The event was reported in the Urdu media with the Hindustan Express calling it a “giant leap.” Similar enthusiasm was seen on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter (see this tweet by the recently formed Wikimedia Community User Group Pakistan).
This achievement raised concerns over the sudden growth of the Urdu Wikipedia articles. As per the Wikimedia Statistics for March 2014, Urdu Wikipedia had a total of 35,699 articles during that month. It also had a growth of 263 articles every day, which was surprising considering the relatively low number of active editors. In fact, when I communicated this on the Wikimedia India mailing list, Asaf Bartov, Head of the Wikimedia Foundation’s Program and Global South Partnerships asked me (his reply), “was it a coordinated plan to activate a bot to create stubs, as has been hypothesized?” He also added, “if there’s any Urdu speaker who can shed more light on this, please do.”
Taking a cue from Asaf’s message, I decided to go on a Skype call with the leading Urdu Wikipedians. I set an agenda which aimed at not just analyzing the article-creation but also the overall workings of Urdu Wikipedia.
The Skype call took place on April 29, 2014 between 4-6 pm Indian Standard Time. The actual dialogue was in Urdu but the transcript is available here in English. While interested readers may go through the call transcript “in toto” at the cited link, for the purposes of this blog, I am just going to summarize the key points.
This Skype call included five participating Urdu Wikipedians: Muzammil (myself as a moderator, inspired by my recent designation as the Programme Officer at Access to Knowledge, Centre for Internet and Society, Bangalore). Shuaib Nadwi, admin for Urdu Wikipedia, hailing from Nagpur, India. Tahir Mahmood, admin for Urdu Wikipedia, originally from Pakistan but currently based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Qaisarani, a Finland-based Urdu Wikipedian. And Irfan Arshad, a student from Vehari in Pakistan.
Some of the key findings of this interaction are as follows:
- Article creation: While a number of articles have been created on Urdu Wikipedia by means of bots, there are a number of users who are working hard to refine the language and make these articles acceptable. Furthermore, bot-assisted articles are not the whole and sole additions on Urdu Wikipedia. There are people with specific interests who contribute articles in their areas of interest on Urdu Wikipedia.
- Model article size and terminology: Urdu Wikipedia has set a target of at least 100-200 kb size for its articles with the expansion work as an ongoing process. Future plans related to localization of terms in simple language and reorienting focus on scientific articles are expected to result in significant value addition to this encyclopedia.
- Technical problems: Problems in the formation of certain ligatures and some bugs such as the one filed on Bugzilla hamper the editing on this Wikipedia.
- Institutional collaboration and Outreach Programs: The participants favored the proposed Wikipedia Education Program at Maulana Azad National Urdu Urdu University, Hyderabad drafted by the Access to Knowledge, Centre for Internet and Society, Bangalore. Delhi, Lucknow, Maharashtra, Bihar and Hyderabad were highlighted as potential targets for outreach in India. There was also an agreement for holding edit-a-thons on Urdu Wikipedia.
- Positivity of approach: The participants showed their longstanding interpersonal association and also their willingness to work in furthering Wikimedia projects in Urdu as future goals.
Sequential to this discussion, the participants remained in touch with one another as well as with other leading Urdu Wikipedians. At the same time, in order to proactively rejuvenate other Urdu Wikimedia projects, Shuaib Nadwi, admin, Urdu Wikipedia applied for the adminship of Urdu Wikibooks, which was passed with 22 votes in favor, and none against. Similarly, another proactive Urdu Wikipedian Qaisarani has applied for the adminship of Urdu Wikiquote, which, up until the time of this blog post had secured 15 votes in favor, and none against. With the Urdu Wikimedians adopting an enthusiastic approach on not just the Urdu Wikipedia but also in other Urdu Wikimedia projects, one is justified to assume that more success and more concrete sources of knowledge are still to come for Urdu speakers on Wikimedia websites in the near future.
Syed Muzammiluddin, Wikipedian. This blogpost represents the individual views of the author and Skype call participants. It need not necessarily represent any organizational view.